Mandarin is not for everyone?

Chinese is the most widely spoken native language in the world, and Mandarin Chinese is the hardest language to learn. There are many reasons why Mandarin Chinese is challenging. It isn’t just writing that is difficult to learn Mandarin. Language is also tonal, which makes it difficult to speak.

Learn Mandarin is a hell of a challenge, indeed. That´s why I ask is Mandarin not for everyone?

It’s not for tone deaf people, but it is a grammatically simple language.

The state department rates Arabic, Farsi, Japanese, and Korean equally hard

I have studied Japaneses and its grammar is the most difficult part. Pronunciation, not.

No you don’t.

You STATE (i.e. as a fact) that Mandarin is not for everyone, (which is of course true.)

But perhaps the distinction isn’t clear in The Language of Smoke and Mirrors.

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Chinese is hard for non-native speakers to learn because the vast majority of teachers don’t know the first thing about teaching it. Tbh, I’d say for every good Chinese teacher out there, 100 of them absolutely suck. They try using only characters with total beginners and don’t show them stroke order in writing said characters and then get mad that the learners aren’t writing them correctly. They look at pinyin/zhuyin as some kind of crutch, rather than a tool to get learners speaking.

Chinese (of any kind) takes a long time to learn, but if you have a good foundation it’s not hard to learn.

And whoever said it seems like a bot is asking these questions over in the “how long did it take for you to learn Chinese Mandarin” thread, yes, I’m going to assume you’re right. The photos at the beginning of every post should be a dead giveaway.


This tracks with my experience, too. Teachers seem to fall into 2 types:

  1. Those that use a stream of unbroken, incomprehensible Chinese with beginners and then getting frustrated that said beginners cannot simply “have a conversation” with their partners. The concept of grading language, circling questions, and compressible input is alien to these teachers. If immersion worked then why do learners need lessons, anyway? They already live in Taiwan!

2.Those that treat beginners as complete morons. I attended one class where a teacher made us watch a video of the “I like bananas, do you like bananas?” type, clearly intended for kindergarteners. She rationalised it with “this is a video for children, and your Mandarin is like children.” Never went back.

I feel like more teachers should emphasise the amount of WORK needed to learn ANY language, Chinese especially. After years of floundering I only made a breakthrough by putting in the graft to grind through flashcards and write characters. I feel like, in trying to make learning fun and accessible, a lot of teachers fail to make learners aware of this reality.

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